Strangest Windows Update Problem

Updated 1/30/2013.

I've recently came across the strangest windows update "bug" I've ever had the pleasure of dealing with. Attempting to search for updates will have windows tell you the updates service is not running. Checking the status of the service will show that it is running. Every thing else worked fine in windows. Be it a web browser, Word, gpedit.msc, compmgmt.msc, or whatever. Well, Microsoft Security Essentials would not update but it piggy backs of Windows Updates for actually getting its updates so no surprise there.

Attempting to fix the problem proved troublesome as my most trusted tool for fixing any issue with windows update, System Update Readiness Tool, erred out the moment I ran it. All the manual fixes I've used in the past didn't work. Even microsoft's FixIt tool found a problem and claimed to have fixed it but it really didn't fix anything. Looking at C:\windows\windowsupdate.log showed "FATAL: Failed to initialize datastore, error = 0xC8000247". After hours of searching I eventually found a thread on TechNet on the 4th search page in Google. This thread was looking like all the other's I looked at with the standard do a "sfc /scannow" and other such rubbish. I haven't seen "sfc" actually find anything since win98 before Windows File Protection came with 2000 & WinXP and partially corrupt OEM installs of XP from certain vendors that nuked the dllcache and other things too all to just save some space in their factory image. Starting with Vista WFP was improved and became Windows Resource Protection. Any how the I ran into the fix near the bottom of the thread where one user installed "Intel Rapid Storage Technology Driver" and the problem was fixed. Followed by others also claim this fixed their issue too. Having nothing else to try before I reinstalled windows I did too.

Sure enough that worked like a charm. I also assume that "Intel Rapid Storage Technology Driver" will only install if your SATA controller is made by Intel. Word of warning for those that do this. After installing the driver and rebooting the computer fell just shy of hardlocking for ~10 minutes. Don't know what was going on exactly but the HDD was extremely busy. It hasn't done that since so I assume it was a one time deal. Most of us experiencing this issue were imaging one drive to larger drive from what I can tell.


After coming across this problem a few more times this month I've learned more about that cause of the issue. The problem is caused by assumptions that have been made about hard-drives since the existence of DOS. Particularly the assumption that HDD sectors are 512 bytes in size. Newer HDDs are using a more efficient sector size of 4KB. While these drives still support 512 byte sector read/writes through an internal emulation layer this difference causes issues with assumptions that windows makes about HDDs. Official support for 4K drives was added in the Intel SATA driver version 9.6. If you have a 4K hdd and Intel SATA controller with an older driver then you'll likely have problems with unknown problems in windows. Microsoft released Windows Updates to fix these assumptions when a 4K drive is detected and improve performance with 4k drives. The problem then really makes an appearance when windows is seeing a 4k drive but the driver doesn't know what a 4k drive is.

I know my above paragraph doesn't make a lot of sense but that was about as much sense as I could make of the situation. Once I got that all figured out fixing this problem took no time at all. Well, compared to a fresh install then having the problem suddenly reappear while updating windows. Getting the newest Intel SATA driver for Windows 7 is pretty easy but Vista is another matter. "Intel Rapid Storage Technology Driver" no longer supports Vista and the version that Intel claims supports Vista doesn't actually support it. I managed to find a Vista driver that was meant for a Intel desktop board but work just fine on the Toshiba and HP laptops I installed it on. I'll provide a link to it later along with a link hosted on here in-case Intel breaks the link in the future which they will. They always do.

Published on 2013-01-09 11:49:32.